As many of you know, I have been extensively researching the crash of a Capital Airlines DC-3 that occurred on June 22, 1957 in Clarksburg, Maryland. Besides that actual incident, I've delved into the lives of the three crew members: Henry Podgurski & Robert Thomas, the two first officers seeking to upgrade to Captain and Carl Burke, the instructor pilot. Thomas' family sent me this picture of Thomas feeding a deer outside of Capital Airlines ship 214-C (not the plane involved in the accident). Pardon the extremely poor quality of the image:Thomas & Deer
, on Flickr
On a whim, I decided to see if I could find out the history of ship 214-C. Ship 214-C, N21781 was named "Capitaliner Detroit" and was the second DC-3 delivered to Penn Central Airways, which was Capital's original name, in November 1939. During World War II it was one of the DC-3s that the Government allowed the airline to retain. After PCA's first DC-3 delivered crashed in Birmingham, Alabama in January 1946, it became the longest serving aircraft in PCA/Capital's fleet, and it survived all the way to Capital's demise with the United merger in 1961 -- just under 22 years of service.
The DC-3 changed hands a number of times after United sold it shortly after the merger. Astoundingly, the plane is still extant and airworthy as N26MA based out of Lake Elsinore, California, and apparently it spends some time in Hemet as well. I passed this information back to Thomas' family, and his brother contacted the owner of the plane. The owner invited the Thomases to come on out and see the plane and could go inside. It must be nice for the family to have something tangible to link to their loved one, that here was a plane Robert Thomas actually flew.
As significant as this airframe is, I hope that when the current owner decides to part with it, whenever that may be, that the plane will be preserved and/or restored to its Capital or PCA livery.